Robert T. Sin­gle­ton

The pi­o­neer­ing Univer­sity of Mary­land car­di­ol­o­gist was a World War II vet­eran and loved opera

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES NATION - By Colin Camp­bell cm­camp­bell@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/cm­camp­bell6

Dr. Robert T. Sin­gle­ton, a pi­o­neer­ing car­di­ol­o­gist, World War II vet­eran and opera lover who served for 25 years as di­rec­tor of the car­dio­vas­cu­lar lab­o­ra­tory at what is now the Univer­sity of Mary­land Med­i­cal Cen­ter, died of gas­troin­testi­nal bleed­ing Sept. 12 at Gilchrist Hos­pice Care in Tow­son. The Ca­tonsville res­i­dent was 93. “He was a doc­tor’s doc­tor,” said a son, Robert T. Sin­gle­ton Jr., 61, of Reis­ter­stown. “He al­ways said he never felt like he worked a day in his life. He loved what he did.”

Dr. Sin­gle­ton spe­cial­ized in car­diac catheter­i­za­tion, a pro­ce­dure that in­volves in­sert­ing a tube into a vein or artery to de­tect and treat block­ages, said Dr. Paul Gurbel, di­rec­tor of in­ter­ven­tional cardiology at Inova Heart and Vas­cu­lar In­sti­tute in Fairfax, Va., who trained un­der Dr. Sin­gle­ton and later worked with him.

In 1982, Dr. Sin­gle­ton be­came one of the first in Bal­ti­more to at­tempt a bal­loon an­gio­plasty, a process in which a small bal­loon on a catheter is in­serted into a par­tially blocked artery and in­flated to widen it for bet­ter blood flow, Dr. Gurbel said.

“That was a big deal,” Dr. Gurbel said. “Now it’s a pro­ce­dure that’s widely per­formed, but that was an ex­cit­ing time.”

The move — a risky one be­cause it en­tailed tem­po­rar­ily block­ing blood flow to the pa­tient’s heart — il­lus­trated Dr. Sin­gle­ton’s courage as a med­i­cal leader, said Dr. Gurbel, who was a med­i­cal stu­dent work­ing with him on the case.

“But he also had great cau­tion when he was do­ing it,” Dr. Gurbel said. “We didn’t re­ally know how long it had to be in­flated to be suc­cess­ful. He would only leave it in­flated for 10 sec­onds, all that was nec­es­sary.”

It worked. The pa­tient made a full re­cov­ery, Dr. Gurbel said.

“It speaks to how he did all of his pro­ce­dures,” he said. “He took on the most com­pli­cated pa­tients, and he did it with ex­treme care and bril­liant judg­ment.

The Univer­sity of Mary­land named the Robert T. Sin­gle­ton Car­diac In­ter­ven­tional Lab­o­ra­tory in his honor in 1988.

The son of John Hen­der­son Sin­gle­ton, a rail­road em­ployee and in­sur­ance agent, and Flo­rence Belle Tif­fany Sin­gle­ton, a schoolteacher, Robert Tif­fany Sin­gle­ton was born in Meadville, Pa., and raised in Reynoldsville, Pa.

He moved to Bal­ti­more in 1941 to work at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. and en­rolled at the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity be­fore en­list­ing in the Navy and serv­ing from 1944 to 1946.

Dr. Sin­gle­ton earned the Pa­cific The­ater Rib­bon and the Amer­i­can De­fense Rib­bon serv­ing aboard the light cruiser USS Birm­ing­ham, ac­cord­ing to his fam­ily. He was hon­or­ably dis­charged af­ter the war.

He fin­ished his bach­e­lor’s de­gree at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park in 1951 and earned a de­gree at the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Medicine in 1953.

Dr. Sin­gle­ton met his wife of 60 years, El­iz­a­beth Green­ing Rohr, then a nurs­ing stu­dent, as an un­der­grad­u­ate. They mar­ried in 1949 and worked to­gether at the Univer­sity of Mary­land from 1980 to 1991, when they retired.

The cou­ple lived for 40 years in the Ten Hills neigh­bor­hood of South­west Bal­ti­more be­fore mov­ing to Charlestown Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity in Ca­tonsville in 2006. El­iz­a­beth Sin­gle­ton died in 2010.

They loved clas­si­cal mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly opera, and were pa­trons of the Bal­ti­more Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and the Bal­ti­more Opera Com­pany; they also at­tended opera screen­ings at lo­cal movie the­aters, their son said.

Dr. Sin­gle­ton’s other hob­bies in­cluded sail­ing and play­ing bridge. He grew up a Pitts­burgh Pi­rates fan, then later adopted the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles as his fa­vorite base­ball team, his son said.

His bow ties were as ever-present as his op­ti­mism, in­fec­tious smile and laugh, his son said.

“He al­ways had a pos­i­tive out­look on life,” his son said. “I not only lost my dad, I lost a good friend.”

When a physi­cian told Dr. Sin­gle­ton af­ter re­tire­ment that he needed more ex­er­cise, he took up bi­cy­cling — and rou­tinely rode 10 to 20 miles. Dr. Sin­gle­ton was a de­vout Chris­tian who drove him­self to church at St. An­drew’s Chris­tian Com­mu­nity, where he was an or­dained el­der, in North Roland Park ev­ery Sun­day un­til a week be­fore his death.

“If there was ever an ex­am­ple of a good, well-rounded Chris­tian gen­tle­man, it was Dr. Sin­gle­ton,” said the Rev. Ernest Smart, pas­tor at St. An­drew’s. “He was a man of faith, a very peo­ple-ori­ented per­son, very caring, with a great sense of hu­mor.”

He called Dr. Sin­gle­ton a “re­cy­cled teenager,” in that he had a bound­less en­thu­si­asm for life and never seemed to con­sider him­self a nona­ge­nar­ian.

“He al­ways had a cheer­ful word for ev­ery­body, and I think this is what en­deared peo­ple to him,” Mr. Smart said.

Dr. Sin­gle­ton was an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of medicine at the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Medicine, a fel­low of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Cardiology and a mem­ber of the Mary­land Heart As­so­ci­a­tion, the South­ern Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the Univer­sity of Mary­land Med­i­cal Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, for which he served as pres­i­dent from 1978 to 1979.

A memo­rial ser­vice will be held at 11 a.m. Satur­day at Our Lady of the An­gels Chapel at Charlestown, 715 Maiden Choice Lane.

In ad­di­tion to his son, he is sur­vived by an­other son, Richard G. Sin­gle­ton of El­li­cott City, and five grand­sons. Dr. Robert T. Sin­gle­ton “was a doc­tor’s doc­tor,” said one of his sons.

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